ProPublica thinks the judge who sided with the NSA yesterday about its surveillance program has his facts wrong about a key point he makes. In making the case that the NSA's phone-tracking program is an essential tool against terrorism, Judge William Pauley cited the example of 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar. If the current system had been in place back then, the NSA would have realized that al-Mihdhar had been making calls from the US before the attack, the judge suggested. Instead, the agency assumed he was overseas. Bottom line: The NSA's surveillance program might have helped prevent 9/11, according to the argument.
Pauley's footnote on the incident says, "See generally, The 9/11 Commission Report." The problem with that, writes Justin Elliott, is that the 9/11 report "doesn't actually include the account he gives in the ruling." What's more, a previous article by Elliott on al-Mihdhar concluded that US intelligence agencies knew of him long before 9/11 "and had the ability to find him, but they failed to do so." Click for the full piece, which includes the original al-Mihdhar article. (Read more NSA stories.)